Thursday 26 November 2009

Anime REVIEW: Valkyria Chronicles

"Based on the video game of the same name, the show centers on a Gallian Army militia squad led by Lieutenant Welkin Gunther, the son of the well-known Europan War I hero and Gallian army officer Belgen Gunther. After seeing his hometown, Bruhl, under attack, ransacked and eventually placed under military occupation by the Imperial army, Welkin manages to escape the siege using his late father's tank known as the Edelweiss. With the help of Welkin's foster sister, Isara, and a Bruhl town watch soldier named Alicia Melchiott, Welkin leads Squad 7 of the Gallian militia forces to rout out the Imperial forces from further invading Gallian soil." 

I've never really watched a war anime before (before this I can't honestly say I'd even heard of any war animes before) but after being recommended this by a friend and watching the first 5 episodes at one of my local anime society screenings I decided to give the whole 26 episode series a go. After watched the wonder that is Eureka Seven I wasn't expecting this series to top it or even come close to it really, just be enjoyable on its own merits.

And it a degree. However it was also littered with faults. My first issue being that given that its set in the middle (well, almost the entirety really) of war, Squad 7, who seem to have this almost legendary status AFTER JUST ONE BATTLE, seem to do anything BUT fight. Episodes on end cover topics like love, rejection, tolerating others ethnicity, getting lost in a snow storm etc. but very few actually include any fighting, and when they do the fight usually only lasts the last 5/10 minutes of the episodes and can quite easily be summed up as - "supposedly big threat, Squad 7 takes them down with ease, everyone goes home happy". Maybe I'm expecting a little too much from it, maybe I'm missing the point a bit, but I think if that's the setting you're going to put the characters in atleast make more use of it. There's actually more fighting going on in the title sequences than the actual episodes, but that's a separate rant that I'll come onto later.

It isn't until the death of a major character (who I thought was the one lead who actually didn't deserve to die) 17 episodes in that things start to become particuarly interesting, and the downside to that is by then they only have 9 episodes do anything with it. Futhermore it isn't for another 4 episodes that the big plot point is revealed (and by then we only have 5 episodes left). Yes, Alicia Melchiott (interestingly voiced by Marina Inoue, also the voice of Yoko in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann) is descended from the Valkyrians, and basically has superpowers. Yes you read that right, here we have a seemingly realistic war anime set in an alternate time and then the main character has superpowers. Of course the series doesn't take any time to have Alicia adjust to the fact she has these powers. No, instead she almost dies (the reasons for which are actually pretty good, but I won't spoil them here), gets these superpowers and uses them in an almost sleepwalking type state, and then can just use them naturally from then on. I'd have much preferred it if they'd cut back on some of the side stories from earlier episodes and have even only one episode with her learning how to use these powers. Of course Alicia isn't the only one with these powers, naturally there's a villain also blessed with them. They have very few fights, the last of which can basically be described as Dragonball Z with females - alot of powering up and shouting, then a few punches (although in this case its with lances that can fire lasers). On the subject of villains, the ones the series presents us with are very 2 dimension. We have the ruthless power hungry Maximillian, who won't let anyone stand in his epic conquest for power, and then the blindly loyal Selvaria (the female mentioned earlier). Cliche, bland, and uninteresting.

And on to my BIGGEST complaint of the series, which to some may seem like an odd one, but it's completely justified. The second opening credits (which is from about ep13 onwards). My god, this thing should have a spoiler warning attached to it. Straight away it shows that Alicia is a valkyria, despite it not happening about 1/4 of the series later, and even shows a replica of the very last scene in the entire series. What the hell? About the only thing it doesn't spoil is who is and isn't going to die. The only credit I have to give to them is that the first opening song is really good and that both of them have more action in them then the entire series...

Oh yes, and also theres a pig with wings named Hans in the series for no apparent reason. Completely unnecessary.

I'm beginning to wonder if my standards have become too high, because this series pretty much missed every mark for me. I now have even less intention to try out the game then I did before. However I can't bring myself to give it 1 out of 5. Why do you ask? The answer is simple, despite its failings, I continued to watch. Its the first anime that I havent particuarly liked that I chose to watch all the way through. Despite not liking the characters, I continued to watch it because I wanted to know what happened to them. Maybe I was hoping it was going to get better, but nevertheless I still finished it. I can't say I'd ever watch the series again, but I don't outright regret watching it, which I suppose must count for something.

Monday 23 November 2009

Reviews in Time & Space: Robot

Back to the glorious days of classic Who, and what better story to review than the very first outing of 4th Doctor Tom Baker, who in many people's eyes (including my own...despite him not being my favourite Doctor) view as being the DEFINITIVE Doctor. I present to you the 1974 4-part story Robot.

The basic overview of Robot's plot is that the K1 Robot, an experimental and groundbreaking invention by Professor Kettlewell, is being used to commit crimes by the sinister chairman of Think Tank (the organisation that funded the robot's creation) Miss Winters and the Scientific Reform Society (or SRS for short), who plan to hold the world at ransom with the threat of Nuclear war. Enter the newly regenerated Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith, along with the Brigadier and UNIT to save the day.

Almost immediately we're treated to the kind of Doctor we'll be getting from Tom Baker. Gone is the dandy scientist that was Jon Pertwee and in his place we have the wacky nomad that is the 4th Doctor. During his post-regeneration bout of craziness we see him jogging, skipping, karating choping bricks and even locking poor UNIT doctor and future companion Harry Sullivan in a locker. On top of this after a hilarious costume changing montage including a viking outfit and circus performer we are introduced to the 4th Doctor's classic coat, hat and scarf combo. Its immediately apparent that this is the Doctor that David Tennant is mainly channeling today, a sign of how his legacy lives on today. I don't have a bad word to say about Sarah, again she's considered one of the definitive companions even today and I felt she really shines in this story. Continuing from this stories with UNIT are always a treat, and this proves no exception. We're treated to some great lines from the Brigadier (played by Nicholas Courtney) about how he witnessed the Doctor's regeneration this time, how he'd like to once meet a threat that wasn't impervious to bullets and, in the story's finale, how he has arranged the Doctor to have lunch with the Queen.

On to the bad guys...the Robot itself still looks menacing even today, but it does have a few flaws. Here we have a huge silver giant with....floppy claw arms. That isn't an exaggeration, the K1 Robot's arms are horrifically floppy, its hard to believe its as strong as they all make it out to be. Aside from some aesthetic issues the Robot is well characterised, with its inner turmoil of disobeying its prime directive (to serve humanity and never harm it) and its turning to Sarah as it is the only person to ever show it compassion. On the flipside to this there are moments that are HORRIBLY acted, my main issue being with the moment the Robot realises it has killed its own creator - which can be basically summed up to "What have I done? Noooooooooooooooo!"

Our other antagonists - Kettlewell, Miss Winters and the SRS are pretty good on the whole. Kettlewell is represented as the typical absent minded eccentric scientist who's really a good man at heart and just got caught up in a bad crowd, while Winters on the other hand comes across as extremely sinister. The idea of the SRS does come across as a bit silly at times (visually they basically look like clever Nazis) but it works in the context of the story so its not ALL that bad.

I do have a few gripes with the story itself, the first of which being the idea of Great Britain being a neutral country in a nuclear stalemate between the 3 majors powers - America, Russia and China. Really? Maybe it wasn't such a bad thing to comprehend back in 1974 but with hindsight this is a very odd thing indeed. My other being the whole idea behind part 4's epic climax - the Brigadier uses the Robot's distintigrator gun on the Robot, resulting in it growing to a gigantic size and going on a rampage with Sarah in hand (King Kong eat your heart out!). While the idea itself is solid, its established earlier on that the robot is made of a living metal and is capable of growing, I'm not sure keen on the idea of a DISINTIGRATOR gun doing the deed. The Doctor chalks this down to the gun giving the robot enough energy for the metal to grow but I'm not particuarly convinced by the argument. I'm sure there was a better way to handle it....but the Brig's reaction is still pretty funny.

The episode concludes with Baker's first use of the immortal "Would you like a jelly baby?" line, which would go on to become a legendary piece of Doctor Who for years to come, and a new companion in the form of Harry Sullivan (played by Ian Marter). Throughout the episode there are some really good interactions between Harry and the Doctor and its nice for him to become a companion, even if it is only for a short while.

In conclusion this is a solid first outing for the 4th Doctor, by far not the best of his staggering 7 year run but not the worst either. If, like me, you are curious to see where this legendary Doctor began his tenure, then Robot is waiting for you...

Sunday 22 November 2009

The Games Station: Pokemon Rumble

This is an interesting little game, available exclusive via download on the Nintendo Wii as a wiiware game for 1500 points (thats around £10.50 I believe). In the game you play as small super deformed Pokemon toys which come alive via the use of a "Wonderkey" (like clockwork toys really, just with a fancier name) with the aim of becoming champion of the Pokemon Royal Rumble tournament - a huge melee tournament with about 60 contestants per rumble. Starting out as a Rattata and initially losing your first rumble, you travel around 6 different worlds recruiting more stronger Pokemon to join your cause, rising up the ranks to eventually become champion!

Since its both a) a Wii game and b) a downloadable game, the graphics are hardly anything to shout home about, but this actually works to the games favour since it makes the adorable super deformed Pokemon even more cute - especially my personal favourite Raichu :D

The gameplay is extremely simple to get to grips with. You hold the wii remote on its side and use the arrow buttons to move and 1 and 2 to do attacks, you can also switch your Pokemon using the A button. Make sure to switch the Pokemon when your current one is running low because you only get 3 lives per level, and once they're gone you get kicked back to the terminal (however you do get to keep any Pokemon you've recruited and money you might have made...a nice little plus). The only downside is gameplay can sometime seem a little too easy, since factors such as type don't seem to have such a huge impact in the game. For example, I've been beating flying types with dig, who'd usually be immune to such a move. The most important thing in this game is power - give a powerful Pokemon a powerful move and you'll be fine. You might want to slow down your game progression though (I've had the game since Friday and I've already cleared the first mode). On the upside though, it is RIDICULOUSLY fun. I'd definitely say its the most fun I've had from a Pokemon game outside of the mainline handheld games and DEFINITELY the best value for money. Just running around, beating pokemon, collecting money and taking part in huge royal rumbles - I could do it all day.

Perhaps my biggest gripe with the game is the choice of Pokemon they've included - basically they decided to include the first 151 Pokemon from the Kanto region and then all the NEW Pokemon from the Sinnoh region. This means that some of the sinnoh Pokes have their pre-evolutions missing (eg Mismagius, Honchkrow) which seems a little odd. Plus my 2nd favourite Pokemon Mudkip is nowhere to be seen! Personally I'd have just gone for a random mix from all of the generations, but that's just me.

In conclusion I want to give this full marks, but the amount of fun does not make up for lack of difficultly I feel I perhaps should knock it down to 4. Apparently the last of the game's 3 modes is pretty hard, but since I haven't rushed the game (I want to get my money's worth out of it) I haven't got that far to say. Either way this game is indeed incredibly fun and refreshing to play and is probably even better in multiplayer mode. If you're a wii owner and a Pokemon fan or a wii owner looking for a new game to download this is definitely one to try - there's even a free demo of it up to try before you buy at the moment. You'd be missing out not giving it a go, especially at the price it is.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Reviews in Time & Space: The Waters of Mars

Okay I admit, this isn't really "revisting" anything since the episode is only a week old (sorry for the delay too, I've had this ready since last Sunday...but other things came up), but as it is still a part of Doctor Who is has a well deserved place here. We're heading towards the end of the tenth Doctor (played by David Tennant)'s adventures, his companions have left and him and he now wanders the cosmos alone. But what happens when he arrives on Mars at Bowie Base One, in the year 2058? And why does the Doctor have a horrible feeling about all of this...

Before we begin I'm going to sum up my feelings on this episode of "Nu Who", which honestly I've always found a bit hit or miss. Luckily this was a hit. No, not just a hit, a freaking bulls eye. This episode is undoubtedly one of the best of the new series and could possibly go down as one of the greats in the general Who Universe. The idea of there being fixed points in time where even the Doctor, a man who almost always wins, is powerless is both perfectly logical and a stroke of genius on RTD's part. Adelaide Brooke makes for a good one-off episode companion and the supporting cast are fairly good (well they don't get much characterisation other than "Oh my god we're going to die!"). Aliens "The Flood" are superbly done, especially since we never find out what exactly they are and (hopefully) they never return and we never do. This was one set of questions the Doctor was never meant to find the answers to. There is some silliness in the form of the Base's remote controlled robot GADGET (especially when the Doctor powers it up to move at super speeds...oh how I cringed), but we do get some great Tennant one liners out of it so it all balances out. Throw in a cameo by my favourite monster ever the Daleks and a reference to the Ice Warriors (for those who aren't in the know they also hail from Mars) and you've got yourself a great episode.

But I still haven't mentioned the most important part, the part that made this episode special and will make it a memorable piece of Who for years to come - the Doctor's dark side. Realising that because he is the last of Time Lords the rules of time are now his to control the Doctor snaps, spouting that the laws of time will obey him and that he is "Timelord Victorious". Tennant's delivery is superb and makes you instantly realise that this Doctor is dangerous to cross. But as the ending proves, not even the Doctor can escape the laws of time, and it seems time is now running out for him....

Bring on Christmas 2009 and "The End of Time".

Friday 20 November 2009

Anime REVIEW: Eureka Seven

After having my mind blown away by the movie at the Sci Fi London Anime All Nighter a few weeks back, I thought it was time to take a look at the 50 episode long series that is Eureka Seven. And boy, was it worth it.

The story revolves around 14 year old Renton Thurston, son of miltary researcher and world hero Adroc Thurston, who died saving the world. He loves lifting, a sport similar to surfing but with trapar, a substance abundant throughout the air, as the medium. He dreams of joining the renegade group Gekkostate, led by his idol Holland, a legendary lifter. An opportunity to do so literally falls into his lap when a large mecha, called the Nirvash typeZERO, and Eureka, its pilot and a member of Gekkostate, crash into Renton's room. Renton's grandfather orders him to deliver a special part to the Nirvash called the "Amita Drive", which releases the immense power dormant within the typeZERO called the "Seven Swell Phenomenon". Afterwards, Renton is invited to join Gekkostate, where he quickly discovers that the behind-the-scenes life of Gekkostate is hardly as glamorous or as interesting as printed in the glossy pages of their magazine, ray=out. Only one thing makes it all worthwhile for him: the presence of Eureka, the mysterious pilot of the Nirvash. Renton, Eureka, and the Gekkostate embark on an adventure that will shape their future as well as the worlds'.

Okay I admit, I ripped most of the from wikipedia, but it pretty much sums up the premise of the series without giving too much away. And I want to avoid spoilers if I can, because this was without a doubt one of the best anime series I've ever watched (top 5 easily, possibly in the top 3). Once you get to grips with all the terminology within the series (trust me, there's quite alot of it) you get sucked into this wonderful world of action, adventure, romance and mecha. The amount of character development in the series is staggering, with most (but not all) characters getting their fair share. Eureka is one of my favourite anime characters ever now, beaten only by Nia of Gurren Lagann and Lucy of Elfen Lied. The last few episodes brought me close to tears and its finale is one of those ones that closes everything nicely yet still leaves you wanting more. Add in a fantastic soundtrack and you've got yourself a modern classic.

I HIGHLY recommend this series to both newcomers and anime fans alike, it really does have something for everyone.


And now that I have an understanding of the series I've got back and rewatched the movie again to give it a fair review. After seeing many "hardcore" E7 fans blasting it online I needed to know what the fuss was about. And now I somewhat understand. This review WILL HAVE SPOILERS so you have been warned...
As a parallel universe title - lots of things have shifted around. Renton and Eureka now know each other from their childhoods, Dominic was their teacher, the Nirvash is a weird fairy type thing, the Coralian antibodies are now an alien life form called the Image and perhaps the most drastic change - Gekkostate are the enemy. Sure, at first this does seem very very weird (and in the case of Hap and Stoner remains weird until their deaths) but you have to remember this is a clean slate and anything can be done with it. In fact I like it that way - I like to see "what if" titles, to be honest I really wish Gainax would do another Gurren Lagann series like that. Gekkostate are the victims of a scientific experiment that has left them with rapidly aging bodies (all of them are around 17 in reality) and need Eureka and Renton to unlock the gate to Neverland, a place where time is frozen.

The Peter Pan ideology works really well in this context and the romance between Renton and Eureka is played out very different - despite still not being human (she is in fact an "spy robot" sent by the Image - which sounds very bizzare) her personality is far more human. Since there's less time for character development in a 2 hour movie there's no time for her to discover emotion and THEN fall for Renton, just the latter. It works out a little differently, but the end result is still pretty much the same. The mecha battles are alot more high budget and pretty than in the series too. I also like the fact that they made Eureka and Anemone of the same race in this continuity...while I understand the logic behind it in the series I think I prefer it this way. Fairy theEND was awesome too.

My opinion has not budged on this, it’s still a movie worthy of a full five. However you will understand alot by watching the series first, that way you can make out some of the more obscure cameos present in the movie. But I suppose it’s possible to watch this first since I did. Highly recommended either way.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Movie REVIEW: Pokemon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life

After the last few years have given us Pokemon films that were either abysmal or average at best, here is the latest in a long line of Pokemon films (the 12th in fact). Arceus and the Jewel of Life is the last in the trilogy of Diamond & Pearl generation films. This movie sees Ash, Brock and Dawn in the of Michina. Little do they expect to once again be found in a conflict between Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina. They are saved by a young woman called Sheena, who can communicate with a Pokémon's heart, and explains the whole conflict was because of Arceus being close to awakening. She also tells them that her ancestor Damos betrayed Arceus and stole the Jewel of Life, sending it into a rage and a slumber. Sheena plans to return the Jewel to Arceus.

It is nice to finally see some solid continuity between the movies, as this ties together all the previous meetings the trio have had with the legendary trio of Sinnoh. As per usual, the film opens with a stunning battle sequence (these are always among my favourite parts of the Pokemon movies) to the anime theme song at the time (I can't wait to see it in Japanese with High Touch! played over it). It also boasts some stunning battle sequences between Arceus, Dialga, Palkia and Giratina and also the introduction of the notch eared Pichu, who is rapidly becoming a favourite of mine. I just hope its available on the Western versions of HeartGold and SoulSilver...

But here's the negatives. Although only a dub comment (I'm yet to view this movie in the original Japanese), Arceus voice is TERRIBLE. Seriously, it sounds like a stereotypical anime dub villain. I expected something a little more grand for the supposed god of Pokemon. The villain also seems to be a bit lacking and generic, and I felt like Arceus came off as alot more sinister than he did (although again that could just be because of that god-awful voice).

The film also suffers from an issue that has plagued alot of the more recent Pokemon movies, the fact they all just borrow elements from older movies. Here is a little list I've compiled just to show this...
* Pissed off Pokemon mad at humanity for abusing it >>>> Mewtwo Strikes Back
* Major character dying and being resurrected >>>> Mewtwo Strikes Back
* Time travelling >>>> Pokemon 4ever
* Major legendary Pokemon battle >>>> Pretty much EVERY Pokemon film

This continues my worry that, much like the anime series, the writers have run out of ideas and the films are just going to go around in a repeated circle. Although the next Pokemon movie will supposedly include ANOTHER epic legendary battle, here's hoping they do it in a somewhat original way.

But despite its faults, Arceus and the Jewel of Life is a cut above the rest of the D/P gen films and even some of the Johto/Hoenn ones. I would recommend this to anyone out there who's still a fan of the Pokemon anime and hasn't been put off by its repetitive cycle yet.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Reviews in Time & Space: Earthshock

For my second Doctor Who review (Whoview? I quite like the sound of that...) I've chosen my favourite 5th Doctor (as portrayed by Peter Davison) story, one that proves that the Doctor's plans dont always go perfectly and the lifestyle he and his companions lead does often come at a loss, the grand return of the Cybermen....1982's Earthshock.

Set in 2565, the story sees the Doctor and his companions arriving in the middle of an investigation into the murder of a team of scientists in a complex of caves. They are being murdered by androids (who look strikingly similar to the Rassilon robots who would later appear in The Five Doctors), working for the Cybermen. Their plan is to destroy Earth to prevent the signing of a treaty of galactic powers against the Cyberrace. While their original plan of blowing up the Earth with a bomb fails, they then attempt to use a freighter to crash into the Earth, destroying all life upon it. However with the Doctor and moreso Adric's meddling the freighter travels back in time, turning out to be what killed the dinosaurs (a mystery discussed earlier on in the story). The Cybermen are defeated, however the Doctor has not won. Adric was still onboard the ship when it crashed into prehistoric Earth...

The story has some great moments, from the Cybermen discussing their past defeats at the Doctor's hands (along with specific clips) to the Doctor arguing with the CyberLeader about how emotions and the little things are what make up life. The story also makes great use of the 4 part story format, with the Cybermen not being revealed until the end of the first episode (which makes for a great cliffhanger, and in the days before the internet when it was easier to avoid spoilers that probably came as a great suprise), and the Doctor not actually realising who's behind it all until the 3rd part. The idea of the freighter travelling back in time to the age of the dinosaurs I think is an excellent idea and is executed very well. However my one issue with the story is the reasoning behind the Cybermen wanting to destroy Earth. A war against the Cyberrace? Really? And if they're such a threat how come the Earth people onboard the freighter don't realise who they are straight away? I thought that seemed very odd and anticlimatic.

The newly designed 1980s Cybermen look fantastic, much better than the Invasion-rehash ones that appeared in Tom Baker's 1975 story Revenge of the Cybermen. This design would be used until the very end of classic Who. Another trend that continued was the use of David Bank's superb CyberLeader, along with his very Mr Burn's-esque "Excellent!" catchphrase. My one point of criticism would be that sometimes these Cybermen's voices come across as being emotional, which is not a good sign for apparently emotionless beings. You can definitely hear anger and desperation in their voices at times. The voices even sound somewhat melodic at times, which is a bit odd but when I think about it harks back to The Tenth Planet era Cybermen too.

The story, as was the case with alot of the 1980s Who episodes, contains quite alot of references to older stories, whether it be just a few stories back with the E-space trilogy and Logopolis, or even some of the earliest Cybermen outings The Tenth Planet and Tomb of the Cybermen. If you know alot about the Doctor Who mythos and continuity, this is quite nice to hear. However, relying too heavily on previous continuity is one of the factors which led to Who's downfall in 1989 and this is certainly an early example of it. Having not seen every Doctor Who episode there are some instances where even I don't know what exactly they are referencing.

But perhaps the most important issue to cover in this review is the death of Adric (played by Matthew Waterhouse). Having willingly chosen to stay on board and attempt to solve the logic codes that the Cybermen locked the controls of the freighter with, tragic as it may be I found it somewhat hard to feel sad at his death. While it is true that had the damaged Cyberman not destroyed said controls he might of been able to solve it, but hey...clearly curiousity killed the Adric. Besides, Adric didn't die here anyway, but I'll cover that a little later on. I can't say I was ever a huge Adric fan to begin with anyway, he ranks pretty high up in my worst companion list along with the extremely plain Nyssa (played by Sarah Sutton), who also appears in this episode and does absolutely nothing.

In conclusion despite its flaws, this is a fine Doctor Who story, easily makes my top 10 and as a Cyberman story is second only to the magnificent Tomb of the Cybermen. Unlike Remembrance of the Daleks (which I reviewed earlier) this is a little easier to grasp as a standalone story due to the brief history lessons certain characters give at certain points in the story. And with the tragic nature of the ending, it certainly dispels the notion that Doctor Who is just a happy, carefree sci-fi show with some scary monsters. Sometimes there are indeed consequences. I recommend Earthshock to both people getting into the classic series and old-school Who fans alike (although if you're the latter you've most likely seen it already!).

Also, if you're watching this on DVD, part 5 is the best ending the story could possibly have. Trust me. EXCELLENT!

Monday 9 November 2009

Toybox REVIEW: Transformers Revenge of the Fallen Ravage

"Bulleting down through the atmosphere at better than 15 times the speed of sound, RAVAGE considers the data he has already amassed on the small, soft creatures that inhabit this planet. They seem weak and fragile, yet they are the ones that destroyed MEGATRON. That is a fact he will keep in mind as he penetrates their most sensitive installation. Against such an unpredictable enemy, stealth will be his watchword. "

After what in reality was a fairly disappointing Soundwave toy (I know I said he was really good in an earlier blog, but I admit to being in ROTF hype mode and was just exciting that the toys were out), is his former cassette minion Ravage any better? We'll find out...

Like most Revenge of the Fallen toys its got some nice mechanical detailing, and a cool little "snapping jaws" gimmick. The spikes are made of that rubbery plastic so they aren't sharp and won't snap off that easily either. Articulation is fairly good (well, for a cat) - ball joints in the front legs and the end of the tail, then hinge joins everywhere else - knees, feet, guns etc. There's even a swivel joint in the torso. I'd have liked a bit of head articulation but the gimmick kinda prevents that, can't win them all I guess. The figure has a purple decepticon logo on the back just behind the snapping jaw lever - barely noticeable but pretty cool nonetheless. And despite being a tad inaccuare, the purple eye and light piping looks EXTREMELY good, blends much better with the figure than a red would, although I'd quite like to see how red would look. I guess some more pics of that mail away exclusive Ravage will answer that. All in all a very good beast mode worthy of Ravage.

But that's about all you're getting really, because the alt mode is a mess to say the least. Along with Scorponok (who, like Ravage, I thought had an exceptionally good beast/robot mode) from the first movie line, it's clearly an afterthought. Although there's a bit more going on than Scorponok, who was just move legs, move arms = useless excuse for a robot mode), Ravage's "entry" mode looks like nothing more than a cat laying on its stomach playing peek-a-boo. And considering Ravage is supposed to be menacing, this looks a little strange to say the least.

I don't really know how to go about rating this toy. If it had just one mode I'd be able to rate it higher, but then I'd have to bring it back down again because it technically wouldn't be a Transformer. So it's going to have to settle for an average 3/5. I'll leave you with this closing thought, the cat mode is extremely good, worthy of atleast 4/5, but the alt mode just kills it. So my this toy, and don't transform it EVER.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Toybox REVIEW: Transformers Animated Waspinator

"Driven crazy by years locked in an AUTOBOT prison, WASPINATOR is determined to take revenge on the robot who put him there - BUMBLEBEE. Now, after bizarre experiments conducted by BLACKARACHNIA, he finally has the power to make his vengeance a reality. He has come to Earth hunting the AUTOBOT speedster; and he will not stop until BUMBLEBEE is a pile of smoking scrap."

Beast Wars Waspinator was one of the first Transformers I ever had, so imagine my excitement when I found out he was not only going to be in the Transformers Animated series, but also get a toy. Then imagine my disappointment when I found out his wave wasn't going to be released in the UK. Then imagine my excitement when I found him and his wave mate Samurai Prowl (who will probably get a review some point next week) in Home Bargains of all places for HALF PRICE! Good times readers, good times.

So anyway onto the review, Waspinator is a deluxe class figure and as you have probably already realised transforms into a wasp. The beast mode looks very good in the TF:A style, and the translucent purple plastic on the giant bug eyes and wings are a very nice touch. The transformation itself isn't particuarly difficult, in fact its only 6 step transformation - connect arms, pull up arms and legs, pull down wasp head etc.
The robot mode certainly does the animation model justice, as is the case with most TF:A figures. The eyes have the same purple plastic as the wings which makes for some nice light piping effects and his little arms even have their own articulation. Speaking of articulation its very good, being mostly ball joints and then hinges on the knees, feet and elbows. The toy even has a little lever on the back to make the wings flap!

As with most Animated toys, I highly recommend this figure. Even moreso if you live in the UK and have a Home Bargains nearby and can get it for the price I did (which by the way was £5.99). While he certainly isn't the best TF:A figure ever, he's still certainly leaps and bounds better than the majority of the Revenge of the Fallen line.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Anime REVIEW: Sasami Magical Girls club

Here with have yet another of my blog (so many, yet half are only 1 or 2 posts so far :(, I need to step up my game!) where I'll take a look at an anime series I've just finished watching and give my undoubtebly expert (haha!) opinion on it. So for this time we have the 2006 official Tenchi Muyo! spin off Sasami: Magical Girls Club.

Let me begin by saying that this is not the kind of series I'd watch normally, but due to its nature as a Tenchi spin off and the inclusion of some of its characters it had to be done, and the other Sasami series Pretty Sammy and Magical Project S were marvelous. This however....wasn't.

Well, to say it was a bad show would be a bit too much. I'll go into that a bit later on. Anyway basically the show is based around the titular character Sasami Iwakura, gifted with magical powers since birth and forbidden by her parents to use them. But with the arrival new transfer teacher Washu (also from Tenchi Muyo!) Sasami's life changes as she makes new friends and is taught how to use her powers as a magical girl. Other Tenchi characters present in the show include Mihoshi as Sasami's homeroom teacher and the cabbit Ryo-Ohki as Washu's pet. Those familiar with the Pretty Sammy series will also notice Misao present, albeit with a different surname (and no Pixy Misa! Boooo!). New magical girls include Makoto, An-An and Tsukasa. The 26 episode show is split into 2 distinct seasons, with the first 13 episodes introducing us to the characters and the latter half of the show taking the plot forward and some character development, particuarly Misao. However I feel this format leaves much to be dersired as the final story arc is extremely rushed and the overall ending falls flat and left me very disappointed.

In many ways the 3 new magical girls are more likeable than those already part of the Tenchi mythos. The fact that this is recognised as a Tenchi spin off is really only to draw attraction to the series from long time fans such as myself. The show makes no use of other characters such as Ryoko, Ayeka or even Tenchi himself, instead creating new characters for the land of the witches. For this reason I think that perhaps the show would have worked better without ANY Tenchi characters, as I wouldn't feel the need to compare it to its predecessors and what is resultedly a distinctly average show could have been so much more.

Despite its flaws if you're into the magical girl genre this show is definitely for you, the animation is crisp and beautiful and is full of likeable characters. However if you are like me and are watching this purely because it is a Tenchi spin off, I'm afraid you may end up severely disappointed...